Rahul Gandhi: ‘My arrogance was wiped out after first month of Bharat Jodo Yatra’

Speaking at Congress plenary, Congress leader recounts how his South to North marathon transformed his attitude and understanding

Rahul Gandhi Defamation case
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi sSpeaking in Raipur on Sunday, the third day of the Congress’ 85th plenary session. Image: Twitter

Speaking in Raipur on Sunday (February 26), the third day of the Congress’ 85th plenary session, Rahul Gandhi recounted how his South to North marathon had transformed his attitude and understanding.

“For months we walked from Kanyakumari to Srinagar in the Bharat Jodo Yatra. In the video, you saw my face but there were lakhs of people who walked with us…We walked together and there was a lot one learnt,” he said.

“In Punjab, a mechanic met me. When I held his hand, I could feel years of hard work, pain and emotions he had endured. The same transmission of emotions could be felt with anyone I met during the yatra. There was no need for us to ask, say anything after the first month and a half. I could understand them with a single embrace and they could understand me without exchanging any words.

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“The arrogance I had when we began the yatra was wiped out after the first month of the yatra. Initially, I would talk but later I began to listen, he said.

Few possessions

Recalling the elections of 1977, when he was still a child, Rahul said: “I had no understanding of elections then. The environment at home was very tense. I asked my mother what happened. She told me, ‘We have to leave this house’. I asked why and for the first time she told me, ‘This is not our home, it’s a government house and we have to vacate this now.’ I asked her where we would be going and she said she didn’t know. I was shocked. I thought that was home.”

Rahul went on to say that at 52 years of age, he still doesn’t own a house. “The house our family had in Allahabad is no longer our home. I stay at 12, Tughlaq Lane, but that isn’t my home. So when our yatra began, I asked myself what really is my responsibility,” said the Congress leader.

“I thought about it and spoke to my office colleagues who were walking with me. I told them to ensure that for the next four months, the space around me while I walked in the yatra would be my home and anyone who came there, rich or poor, old or young, of any faith, any state, even an animal, they should feel they are coming home and when they go out of that circle they should feel that they are leaving their home and going away,” he added.

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“It was a small idea but it changed the concept of our yatra. The people who came didn’t talk politics, I can’t share most of what people shared with me. I can’t explain to you the pain in the hearts of the youth.”

Kashmir’s pain

Recalling the Kashmir Valley leg of the yatra, Rahul said 40,000 people were waiting to welcome the team, as opposed to the 2,000 that they expected. “A boy walked up to me and asked why others in India feel happy when Kashmiris face atrocities. I told him that’s not true, that crores of Indians stand with those facing pain while only a handful feel happy. The boy told me my words made him happy.”

Rahul had concluded the yatra with the hoisting of the national flag in Srinagar. Modi’s argument, that he too had hoisted the tiranga at Lal Chowk in Srinagar, was off the mark, said Rahul. “I thought India’s PM hasn’t understood our message. The PM had gone to unfurl the tricolour with 10-15 BJP people; the BJY unfurled it with lakhs of Kashmiri youth…The PM could not understand the difference.” 

“We embedded the emotions of this tricolour in the hearts of J&K’s youth and you (the PM/BJP) stole that emotion from them. That is the difference between us and you,” he added.

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Rahul slammed the Centre, saying the economy is in a poor state. “Some days ago a minister said China’s economy is bigger than India’s and so we can’t fight China. When the British ruled us, was their economy smaller than ours? Does he mean that we will only fight those who are weaker than us? This is cowardice, it is the ideology of Savarkar — you bow in front of those more powerful,” he said.

Adani row

Talking about the Hindenburg report on the Adani Group, Rahul said he had always accused the Centre of crony capitalism.

“In Parliament, I attacked Adani. I said Adani went from 609 to 2 (in list of world’s wealthiest people). He gets advantage of your policies everywhere, even in Israel and Sri Lanka. I only asked the PM to explain what his relationship with Adani was. I showed a photo of Modi relaxing in Adani’s plane. The entire government, all ministers came out to defend and protect Adani,” said Rahul.

“They say anyone attacking Adani is a deshdrohi (traitor). Is Adani the greatest patriot of this country? Why are BJP and RSS protecting him, what is it about Adani that he needs to be protected? These shell companies which pump thousands of crores of money into India; who do they belong to? Adani deals in defence and the Indian government doesn’t even know about these shell companies,” he added.